November 19, 2017

A Closely Watched Gauge Suggests Stronger Growth

The Conference Board, a business research group, said on Thursday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.6 percent last month to a reading of 96. There was no change in June and a 0.2 percent increase in May. The index is composed of several previously released pieces of data and can signal economic conditions over the next three to six months.

The solid gain suggests that economic growth is picking up after a weak start. The economy grew at an annual rate of 1.4 percent from January through June. Many economists say that growth could improve to a 2.5 percent rate in the second half of 2013.

The pace of growth measured by the index over the last six months has nearly doubled, “pointing to a gradually strengthening expansion through the end of the year,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist at the Conference Board.

Eight of the 10 components of the index were positive in July. Higher stock prices, more requests for building permits and a decline in weekly applications for unemployment benefits made the biggest contributions.

The only measures to decrease were the average manufacturing workweek and orders for manufactured goods, which signal business investment plans.

A separate report on Thursday showed that the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits rose last week after reaching the lowest level in more than five years. But the broader trend suggests that companies are laying off fewer employees and could step up hiring in the months ahead.

The Labor Department said applications for first-time benefits rose 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000 in the week ended Saturday. The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations, fell 2,250, to 330,500. That is the sixth consecutive decline and the lowest for the average since November 2007.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/23/business/economy/indicators-offer-hope-for-stronger-growth.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Claims for Jobless Benefits Inch Higher

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits edged higher last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, but the four-week average dropped to its lowest level in five years and pointed to ongoing healing in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000. Economists polled by Reuters had expected 342,000 first-time applications last week.

The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, fell 7,500 to 339,750, the lowest level since February 2008.

Still, while layoffs have ebbed over recent months, companies have been cautious about adding new employees and the Federal Reserve has appeared worried that belt tightening by the government could dampen progress made in the labor market.

The Fed on Wednesday pressed forward with its aggressive policy stimulus, pointing to still-high unemployment, fiscal headwinds out of Washington and risks from abroad.

The Fed action came despite a rash of recent data showing the economy gathering strength. Retail sales have been stronger than expected, manufacturing output has picked up and employment growth has quickened, with the jobless rate dropping to 7.7 percent last month from 7.9 percent in January.

Last week, the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid rose 5,000 to 3.053 million in the week ended March 9.

The previous week’s claims figure was revised to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.

Separately, a private group said home resales in the United States hit a three-year high in February and prices jumped, adding to signs of an acceleration in the housing market recovery, even though the supply of properties on the market increased.

The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales increased 0.8 percent to an annual rate of 4.98 million units last month, the highest level since November 2009. The January sales pace was revised up a 4.94 million units from the previously reported 4.92 million units.

Homes took about 74 days to sell in February, according to the median estimate, down from 97 days from a year ago.

The rise in sales last month was the latest indication that the housing market was gaining more ground. Data this week showed builders broke ground on more houses in February and permits for future construction approached a five-year high.

“With buying conditions remaining very supportive to demand and overall economic fundamentals continuing to improve, we expect the momentum in housing activity to improve further, providing a supportive backdrop for the recovery more generally,” said Millan Mulraine, a senior economist at TD Securities in New York.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/business/economy/claims-for-jobless-benefits-inch-higher.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

North Carolina Approves Benefit Cuts for Unemployed

In a debt-reducing effort, the Republican-controlled legislature voted to cut maximum weekly benefits to $350 from $535, a 35 percent drop; reduce the maximum number of weeks for collecting benefits to between 12 and 20 weeks from 26 weeks; and tighten requirements to qualify. The cuts would begin with new jobless claims on July 1.

If the bill is signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, as expected, North Carolina would be the eighth state to roll back jobless benefits under the growing financial burden of the recession.

The measure’s sponsors said it would spur job growth by paying down $2.5 billion in debt to the federal government. The bill passed the State Senate by a vote of 36 to 12.

“North Carolina owes the federal government $2.5 billion because of a broken unemployment insurance system,” said Mr. McCrory, a Republican. “We’re going to pay down that debt, make the system solvent and provide an economic climate that allows businesses, large and small, to put people back to work.

But critics warned of dangerous consequences. The state has the nation’s fifth-highest unemployment rate, at 9.2 percent, compared with the national average of 7.9 percent.

“We have a jobs crisis — there are about three unemployed workers for every job,” said Bill Rowe, the director of advocacy for the North Carolina Justice Center, which aids low income workers. “We’re turning down money to make cuts for what are not really legitimate reasons.”

The bill also disqualifies 170,000 unemployed people — 39 percent of the 438,000 jobless — from federal emergency extended benefits because it reduces the number of weeks people can receive benefits to below 26. The federal government has set 26 weeks as the national requirement for receiving federal funds.

“Families struggling to secure their place in the middle class will suffer a grievous blow, and the state’s economy will lose $780 million in federal funds that are vital to reducing North Carolina’s high unemployment rate,” said Seth D. Harris, the acting labor secretary.

Since the recession began, seven other states have reduced unemployment benefits: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina. But North Carolina’s cuts would be the “harshest yet,” according to the National Employment Law Project, an employment-rights advocacy group, since the reduction in benefits is bigger than in other states.

North Carolina was forced to borrow $2.5 billion from the federal government starting in 2008, after its unemployment fund went bankrupt. The bill would allow the fund to be out of debt by 2015 instead of 2018.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/us/north-carolina-approves-benefit-cuts-for-unemployed.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

U.S. Unemployment Claims Remain Elevated

The Labor Department said on Wednesday that first-time applications for jobless benefits fell by 41,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 410,000. That offset only part of the previous week’s surge.

Two weeks ago, the storm drove applications up by 90,000, to 451,000, an 18-month high. Nearly 44,000 people in New York and 31,000 in New Jersey applied for jobless benefits that week, according to the latest state data available. People in Pennsylvania and Connecticut also sought benefits because of the storm.

The four-week average of jobless claims, a less volatile measure, rose by 9,500, to 396,250.

Before the storm, weekly applications had fluctuated this year from 360,000 to 390,000. At the same time, employers added an average of nearly 157,000 jobs a month. That is barely enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 7.9 percent in October.

The aftermath of the hurricane is also likely to slow job growth in November, economists said.

Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said that net job gains could fall to 25,000 this month from 171,000 in October. But employment should rebound after the impact of the hurricane passes. Rebuilding efforts after the storm could even create some jobs.

“If there is any good news in this extremely tragic event, it is that the longer-term impacts on the labor market in particular and the economy in general are negligible,” he said.

There are some signs that the job market is improving. Hiring picked up in October and was stronger than first estimated in August and September, the Labor Department said this month. The economy gained an average of 174,000 jobs a month in the July-to-September quarter. That is up from 67,000 a month in April through June.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits increased by about 244,000, to 5.2 million, in the week that ended Nov. 3, the latest data available. That is up from fewer than five million the previous week.

Still, consumers are optimistic the unemployment rate will drop over the next 12 months, raising their confidence to the highest level in five years.

The University of Michigan said Wednesday that its consumer sentiment index ticked up to 82.7 this month from 82.6 in October. The index has increased 19 percentage points in the last year.

Optimism about the job market is high. Of those surveyed, 30 percent expect the unemployment rate will fall over the next 12 months. That matches October’s percentage and is the highest since 1984.

Separately, the Conference Board said on Wednesday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.2 percent in October after a 0.5 percent gain in September. The slight gain suggests growth could remain weak. The index is intended to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/business/economy/jobless-claims-decline.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Wednesday Reading: Three Million Could Lose Jobless Benefits

December 21

Wednesday Reading: Three Million Could Lose Jobless Benefits

Three million people could lose jobless benefits in impasse, Amazon.com makes the Fire less balky, good news and bad for older runners and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b2dd5b3a995250c3bf66f14fd07c68bb

With Impasse in Congress, 3 Million Could Lose Jobless Benefits

Jobless benefits have been overshadowed by debate on a payroll tax cut, but have become a huge sticking point in negotiations on a bill that deals with both issues.

Republicans would continue aid for some of the unemployed, but would sharply reduce the maximum duration of benefits and impose strict new requirements on people seeking or receiving aid.

Democrats said these changes made no sense at a time when 45 percent of jobless workers had been unemployed for more than half a year and the average duration of unemployment — 41 weeks — was higher than at any time in 60 years.

Jon D. Grandstaff, 50, who lives in a suburb of Tulsa, Okla., said Tuesday that he had been watching the debate in Congress with trepidation, worried that his jobless benefits would be exhausted on Jan. 9.

“This mess in Congress is so upsetting,” Mr. Grandstaff said in an interview. “I don’t know who to blame — House, Senate, Republicans, Democrats. They are toying with people’s lives. I’m getting really scared and nervous.”

Mr. Grandstaff said he was making $43,000 a year when he was laid off in March from the collections department of a major cellphone company. Now he is working at a part-time job for $8 an hour and hoping the position will lead to full-time work.

Brenda G. Crosier, 52, of Northglenn, Colo., outside Denver, is also at risk of losing extended unemployment benefits. She said she applied for five to eight jobs a week but rarely received responses, and in a telephone interview Tuesday she had this question for Congress:

“Why are you leaving for Christmas vacation? If you worked for a company and you did not have your work done, you would not be walking out the door. You have no business leaving until your work is finished.”

Major provisions of the federal unemployment insurance program begin expiring in the first week of January, and people would begin to feel the effects over the next several months. By mid-February, the Labor Department estimates, 2.2 million workers would have lost jobless benefits, and by the end of March, 3.6 million will be affected.

People in states with the highest unemployment rates would be among the hardest hit.

The cornerstone of the program, regular unemployment insurance benefits, provides up to 26 weeks of assistance financed by the states. In states with high unemployment, jobless workers may be able to get up to 73 weeks of additional benefits, financed by the federal government, for a total of 99 weeks of aid. House Republicans would reduce the maximum to 59 weeks.

“This reflects a more normal level of benefits typically available after recessions,” said Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said: “I don’t see why you have to go more than 59 weeks. In fact, we need some incentives for people to get back to work. A lot of these people don’t want to work unless they get really high-paying jobs, and they’re not going to get them ever. So they just stay home and watch television. I don’t mean to malign people, but far too many are doing that.”

The Senate version of the payroll tax bill, passed with bipartisan support on Saturday, would continue paying jobless benefits under current law for two months, while lawmakers tried to figure out a longer-term solution.

House Republicans said they wanted a full-year extension, with additional requirements to prevent abuse of the program. They would require most recipients of jobless benefits to search for work and to pursue G.E.D. certificates if they had not completed high school.

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, said the Republican proposals amounted to “the most drastic attack on the unemployment system” in 75 years.

House Republicans would also allow states to require drug testing as a condition of getting benefits. Democrats said such tests were an insult to the unemployed, because they implied that many were lazy drug abusers.

“I don’t see anyone in the Republican majority demanding drug testing for folks who receive oil and gas subsidies,” said Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina.

But Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, said, “People who are unemployed should be looking for a job and should not become voluntarily ineligible by taking illegal drugs.”

Democrats say the program has reduced poverty and helped stabilize the economy, reducing the depth of the last recession. Republicans say the benefits have led some people to reduce their efforts to find new jobs.

Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, said: “The problem is not a lack of effort for those seeking a job. The problem is a lack of jobs.”

House Republicans said they had borrowed ideas from the jobs bill that President Obama sent Congress in September. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said the president’s proposal would probably reduce the maximum length of unemployment benefits to 79 weeks, from the current 99, in many states.

Republicans would allow states to get waivers from many federal standards and requirements, including one stipulating that money from state unemployment taxes must be spent on jobless benefits.

Democrats see the waivers as a threat to the fabric of the unemployment insurance system. But Republicans said that, instead of just writing benefit checks, federal and state officials must do more to help people get back to work.

“In this uncertain economy, using unemployment dollars to subsidize the training of a new employee to re-enter the work force is just good public policy,” said Representative James B. Renacci, Republican of Ohio.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3535547ea254cc90cb6a0fd9b4b89171

Economix: Maybe the Unemployed Aren’t Invisible After All

DESCRIPTIONCaitlin O’Connell-Rodwell The elephant in the room.

America is in the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, and Washington is fussing about whether it will make good on the debts it has already committed to. What gives?

I’ve described a few different theories explaining why the unemployed are invisible, including that unemployed people have low voter turnout rates; they don’t congregate at unemployment offices anymore; the labor unions that used to organize them have weakened; extended jobless benefits have kept these workers complacent; the media haven’t devoted sufficient coverage to unemployment; and the huge unemployment statistics desensitize people to the jobs crisis.

But what if the entire premise of my question is wrong: What if the unemployed are actually too visible, and that’s why Washington keeps wanting to talk about everything else?

In his column last week, David Leonhardt noted that “by pushing for new stimulus,” President Obama “would also tie himself ever closer to the troubled economy and the unpopular policies to help it.”

Maybe members of Congress are thinking the same way about their own images. They know the jobs crisis is the elephant in the room. But they don’t want to talk about it, because almost anything they could do to alleviate unemployment would still not return it to prerecession levels, so they would still be blamed for any remaining pain.

And so the debt ceiling debate is just a big fiscal version of “Wag the Dog” — a diversion created to distract America from the real crisis at hand. Except that in the process, Washington may be creating a whole other crisis that merely magnifies the first one.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=05cd577ee3d7256e3b60062f8122c003

Claims for Unemployment Benefits Increase

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 418,000, the Labor Department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 410,000. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 408,000 from the previously reported 405,000.

The claims data covered the survey period for the closely watched nonfarm payrolls count for July. Initial claims dropped 11,000 between the June and July survey periods, suggesting a modest improvement in employment after June’s paltry 18,000-job gain.

A government shutdown in Minnesota following a budget impasse resulted in an additional 1,750 state employees filing claims for jobless benefits last week.

Initial claims have now been above the 400,000 mark for 15 consecutive weeks. A level of 400,000 claims or less is usually associated with a stable labor market.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, slipped 2,750 to 421,250.

A total of 7.33 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs, down 159,000 from the prior week.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=cb328e00385bf0639d88377351f49b3b

Optimism on Greece Pushes Stocks Higher

Greek lawmakers passed an austerity bill that would allow international lenders to release more emergency loans. Meanwhile, in Germany, banks and insurance companies joined the government in a plan to roll over holdings of Greek debt. The news added to optimism about averting a widespread European debt crisis, which has sent markets higher since Monday.

However, a report on claims for American jobless benefits was less encouraging. Worries about the economy and job growth have pushed stocks lower since late April.

Major indexes could eke out a small three-month gain as a volatile quarter comes to a close. The Dow was up 0.6 percent for the three-month period ending in June, but the Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was down 0.5 percent.

In early afternoon trading Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 121.74 points, or 0.99 percent, to 12,383.16. The Standard Poor’s 500 gained 10.65 points, or 0.81 percent, to 1,318.06, and the Nasdaq composite index added 28.95 points, or 1.06 percent, to 2,769.04.

In Washington, the Labor Department said that slightly fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week compared with the week before, but the level of claims was still high, at 428,000.

The previous week, applications had jumped to a one-month high. New unemployment claims have stayed above 400,000 for 12 straight weeks, a sign that companies are not hiring at a rate that can sustain job growth. The slowdown in hiring has caused concerns that the economy will take longer than expected to return to health.

Applications had fallen in February to a level that economists consider healthy, but surged in April to an eight-month high.

In Europe on Thursday, stock indexes also jumped after the Greek vote and German bank deal. Germany’s benchmark DAX index closed up 1.1 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares and France’s CAC 40 both rose 1.5 percent.

On Wednesday, strong signs Greece would pass its austerity bill and a Bank of America settlement over failed mortgage securities pushed stocks higher for a third straight day. The Dow rose 72.73 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 12,261.42, and the S. P. 500 index rose 10.74, or 0.83 percent, to 1,307.64.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/business/01markets.html?partner=rss&emc=rss